New Jersey Legislator Wants Background Checks for All Private School Employees in the State

By Michael Klazema on 7/13/2015
A Hoboken, New Jersey legislators wants to propose a new background check law for private schools after video footage of a teacher "roughing up" a toddler went viral on the web. The incident in question took place at Hoboken's Apple Montessori School in May. On the playground, a female teacher roughly handled a 23-month-old girl in an attempt to put a hat on her head. Later, the teacher pushed the toddler down and walked away, leaving the young girl on the ground while other children played around her. The entire incident was caught on video from an apartment in a high-rise that overlooks the Apple Montessori School's playground.

It took until June for the video to hit the web, but once it did it caused quite a stir. Parents and community members were disturbed by the incident, and particularly by the fact that the teacher in question was not immediately fired from Apple Montessori. Instead, the teacher was placed on a 30-day "working probation", meaning that she has continued working closely with children, including the young girl she "roughed up," ever since the incident occurred.

Parents aren't the only ones bothered by the incident. On the contrary, Carmelo Garcia, a democrat and New Jersey Assemblyman who hails from Hoboken, has announced that he is currently drafting a bill that would help to prevent similar incidents in the future. The legislation would ramp up background check requirements for private schools, which Garcia says are currently not on the same levels as corresponding requirements for public schools and charter schools.

In fact, when it comes to background checks for teachers and other staff members, private schools are more or less left to their own discretion. And while Garcia noted that many private school institutions throughout New Jersey have already taken the initiative to establish their own background check protocol, a law to establish standards for employment screening in these schools would help to make them safer places for kids.

"A simple background check can go a long way towards easing parental concerns, and ultimately and most importantly, keeping our children and students safe," Garcia said.

With the Apple Montessori School incident fresh in everyone's minds, and with movements around the nation pushing for better background checks in schools, Garcia's legislation will likely pass easily through the different legislative bodies in New Jersey.

The question is, why aren't background checks already a legal requirement for private schools in New Jersey? The schools in this state have to know that there is a pressing need for additional security and safety measures at schools. The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 occurred just 76 miles from Hoboken, in Newtown, Connecticut. It's somewhat surprising that schools, districts, and legislative bodies throughout the New England region haven't closed all potential safety gaps in the wake of that incident. Perhaps Garcia's new bill will help to correct that oversight.

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